As high-profile figures come forward to seek treatment for problem gambling and the negative impacts of gambling addiction continue to expand, the UK is looking for ways to curb the harms of the nation’s popular but risky pastime.
The UK gambling industry is steadily growing, pulling in an estimated 14 billion GBP this year while gambling addiction rates continue to climb. This issue was spotlighted in a recent article which revealed that out of 35 UK professional footballers seeking help for addiction last season, most required residential treatment for a gambling problem. Through the years, football legends like Peter Shilton, Paul Merson, and Wayne Rooney have spoken out about their own struggles with gambling addiction in an attempt to bring attention to the dangers of this often hidden problem affecting both high-profile figures and the general public.
What’s Behind the Rise in Gambling in the UK?
Statistics revealed that 43% of the UK’s population had gambled at some point in 2022. Studies have shown that typically men are more likely to gamble than women, and that substance use or depression can factor into problem gambling. But what’s driving the steady increase in betting?
One significant factor is the rapidly growing online gambling industry. The UK is currently home to the world’s largest regulated online gambling market, bringing in over $12.5 billion in gross revenues. This booming sector has made gambling far more accessible to the average person. Rather than driving to the nearest casino or racetrack, betting opportunities are just a few clicks away on a smartphone or computer.
The stress and boredom of Covid-19 lockdowns also had a significant impact on gambling practices among Brits, as remote betting soared from $4 billion in 2019-2020 to $5 billion in 2020-2021. While this figure dropped slightly in 2021-2022, rates have remained higher than they were prior to the pandemic. The most popular forms of online gambling being online casinos and sports betting.
Anti-gambling campaigners say that betting around popular sports like football normalises gambling, with pervasive betting-related advertisements luring in first-time gamblers with potentially devastating consequences.
Negative Impacts of Gambling Addiction in the UK
Research suggests there are up to 1.4 million adults addicted to some form of gambling in the UK. The prevalence of gambling has had broad social impacts, affecting not only the gambler but their families and colleagues, with an estimated 7% of the UK population affected by another person’s gambling. These far-reaching impacts have led many stakeholders to consider gambling addiction as a pressing public health issue.
Problem gambling can lead to extensive financial losses, resulting in debt, bankruptcy, and even homelessness. These impacts are often experienced by those close to the person with gambling addiction as well, particularly domestic partners, as well as family members. Work performance may also be affected, leading to demotion or job loss which can further harm one’s financial standing.
Gambling places great stress on relationships, as the combination of financial pressure and negative mental health impacts on the individual began to affect those around them. This is especially true for immediate family members, with children of those with gambling addiction reporting additional difficulties at school due to instability at home.
People with a gambling addiction have a far greater risk of running afoul of the law. One study found that gamblers had an arrest rate that was eight times higher than those who don’t gamble, and a 40 times higher rate of imprisonment. Gambling-related crime often stems from financial pressures, and can include things like embezzlement, robbery, theft, fraud, or selling drugs.
Problem gambling has been linked to significant health issues like depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and drug and alcohol abuse. One study reported that people struggling with a gambling disorder have an increased risk of dying from any cause, particularly those aged 20-49. Emotionally, gamblers also experience a range of negative effects such as persistent feelings of guilt and shame, lowered self-esteem, and isolation.
Gambling addiction is a life-threatening condition, as problem gamblers have the highest suicide rate out of all addiction disorders, with around one in five gamblers attempting suicide. Unpaid debt, as well as guilt and shame, often factor heavily in these attempts. In the UK, gambling addiction factors into hundreds of suicides annually, creating devastating losses for families across the country.
New UK Measures Enacted to Counter Gambling Addiction
In an effort to curb negative societal impacts, the UK has recently rolled out a series of new laws and regulations aimed at preventing gambling addiction. These include things like:
- New limits for online stakes – the UK government has proposed new online stake limits for all types of online gambling, which would be between £2 ($2.49) and £15 ($17.45)
- Additional powers given to gambling regulators – this would increase regulators’ ability to combat illegal and unauthorized gambling operations
- Bonus offer restrictions – the UK government has proposed to limit bonus offers like free bets or spins in order to cut down on unnecessary temptations for potential problem gamblers
- More protection for gamblers aged under 25 – these measures would include an advertising ban for this age group, and require age verification checks before gambling
- New statutory levy – this levy would target betting firms, and would be used to fund research, education, and treatment for those with gambling addiction
- More checks on affordability – these checks would require that gambling operators assess if customers can afford to gamble and set appropriate limits for losses
How to Identify a Gambling Addiction?
A gambling addiction is present when someone has an uncontrollable urge to gamble, despite the consequences. It might be difficult to discern when someone has crossed the line from gambling for fun to problem gambling. Knowing the signs of gambling addiction is an important step in intervening.
Gambling Addiction Symptoms
- Using gambling as a way to cope with stress or depression, or as an escape
- Trying to stop or cut back on gambling without success
- Chasing losses
- Relying on money from others to relieve financial strain due to gambling
- Being fixated on gambling and related issues
- Lying to others about gambling
- Risking or losing important relationships because of gambling
- Increasing the amounts gambled in order to feel the same excitement
If you suspect that you or someone you love may be struggling with problem gambling, professional treatment can help.
How to Stop Gambling Addiction
Gambling addiction is a serious disorder that requires professional care. People with gambling addiction may also be struggling with a co-occurring disorder such as bipolar disorder or depression, and a clinical assessment can aid in better understanding each individual case and identify how to help someone with a gambling addiction.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a popular form of talk therapy often used to help people overcome a gambling addiction. CBT identifies the root causes of gambling, explores problematic patterns of thought and behaviour, and elicits ways in which to constructively address and shift these patterns. As part of this method, clients and therapists also discuss and practice alternative, healthy coping mechanisms for managing stress and dealing with challenging situations to improve resilience and lower the risk of relapse.
Group therapy also offers a unique and affirming experience to those recovering from gambling addiction. Surrounded by people with similar challenges and life experiences, participants benefit from informed support, knowledge, and advice from their peers and a skilled, compassionate facilitator.
Gambling Addiction Treatment at The Dawn Rehab Thailand
At The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab Thailand, our compassionate team of professional addiction specialists have spent years guiding people through successful, lasting recoveries. We understand that gambling addiction affects a person in many different ways, and so our holistic, residential treatment approach combines the most effective psychotherapeutic techniques with a variety of proven wellness practices to heal both the mind and body.
Gambling Rehab in Thailand
Internationally accredited by the American Accreditation Commission International, The Dawn offers a programme of comprehensive gambling rehab in Thailand, as well as co-occurring disorders. Located in beautiful northern Thailand, our peaceful riverside facility offers a wide range of amenities to help you relax, recharge, and heal. Far away from the triggers and stressors of home, you’ll be able to fully focus on your recovery at The Dawn.
Call us today to learn more about how we can help you reclaim your life from gambling addiction.